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KCHD's public virus testing shifts to Jacob Building next week

Dr. Martha Buchanan, department director, announced Friday the new site will help spare people waiting for a test from standing outside in the heat.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Starting Wednesday, the Knox County Health Department will offer free virus testing at the Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park.

Dr. Martha Buchanan, department director, announced Friday the new site will help spare people waiting for the test from standing outside in a line. The department has been working in recent weeks to find an alternative to its headquarters at 140 Dameron Ave. for those seeking a COVID-19 test.

"We're grateful for this partnership with the city that allows us to extend our hours and increase safety for those waiting in line due to the heat," Buchanan said during her regular media briefing.

Credit: KCHD
Knox County virus deaths as of July 31.

On Monday, people will get tested from 8 am. to noon at the Dameron Avenue location as has been done in the past.

But going forward Wednesday, people will be able to get tested at the Jacob Building off Magnolia Avenue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Buchanan said.

Buchanan cautioned that there might be some days when the Jacob Building was unavailable and an another option would have to be offered. The public will be notified in those cases, she said.

The wide open Jacob Building, an old exhibition hall, offers plenty of space where people can spread out and practice social distancing as they wait to get a test. It's also air conditioned.

The county continues to see virus case counts grow by at least 100 a day after weeks in which it was relatively low. Deaths also surged in July.

As of Friday morning, the KCHD said the county had recorded 3,761 positive cases, with 2,081 of those now active.

There have been 1,643 recoveries. Active cases have exceeded recoveries for several weeks, a sign that the virus is outpacing control efforts.

On Friday, the county announced two more deaths from complications due to the highly contagious virus. The total now is 33. At the start of July, the county had five deaths.

The Knox County Board of Health has imposed a mask mandate for the public. It also on Wednesday ordered that area bars be closed starting Monday, part of an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

The board will meet publicly Wednesday, Aug. 5, by Zoom. The public will be allowed to offer comment, but the process for doing that still is being worked out.